My first outing in the Cuillin for over a week looked like it wasn’t going to be too wintery as I gazed on Coir’ a’ Bhasteir stripped of its ice. We rationalised down to single axe and single rope with the Tooth as an ambition.
By the time we reached the gorge a coat of rime was eveident above 600m and we donned crampons pretty soon afterwards on the NE Ridge of Sgurr a’ Bhasteir.
Still I exxpected a rock scramble up Collie’s Route which, in the full glare of westerly wind, sun & rain must surely have been stripped. No such thing as we descended past the Tooth into Lota Corrie.
5m of icy rock led into the diagonal break of Collie’s Route which rolled up away into the mist as a continuous white line of neve. We moved together placing runners every now & again but never on moves that were more than grade I. Traversing a (normally easy) horizontal ledge system proved the scariest with the banked out snow steepening up.
Dropping into the nick & up onto the Tooth was a simple exercise but all of the abseil tat was buried in King’s Cave Chimney. A sling on a block at the back allowed us to pull the ropes safely though (thank goodness) and we lapped up the scenery on the descent as the clouds cleared.
Weather was testing but results were great. Wee sample but too busy having fun. Follow us on the Skye Winter Festival facebook page- https://www.facebook.com/skyewinterfestival?ref=hl
Michael Barnard in ation Ghrunnda
Relief from the storms on Friday
Ally’s 1st lead on Ice
There’s been some great Cuillin adventures already despite the roller-coaster temperatures.
Climbing highlight was day 1 when Michael Barnard and Tim Oates caught the last day of big ice. Here Today, Gone Tomorrow gave a big 50m pitch of grade IV,4 water ice in Coir’ a’ Ghrunnda. The name was a far too accurate prediction with almost all decent ice on the hill destroyed by Sunday’s warm wet pulse. They also climbed a good mixed route on Alasdair, possibly Central route which gave 3 pitches at V,6.
Meanwhile the rest of the team had a more leisurely intro & exploration in Coir’ a’ Ghreadaidh.
We climbed a 50m pitch of grade III ice and set up ropes for everyone who wanted to have a go.
We all retired to the bunkhouse for haggis neaps & tatties and a quiet drink & early night
Monday dawned cold & clear again and the 5 of us that had stayed on all headed into Coire na Banachdaich. The missing ice was a blow but The White Line gave the best part of 1000ft of great fun snow stomping.
No need for crampons with such soft snow but the excitement was created by trying to “act like a feather” crossing the more hollow sections of old snow.
Rory easily won the competition for action when he dropped through a hole right in front of Craig and reappeared through a hole at his feet!
Annmarie has been off the hill for 2 years with surgery on her feet but you’d never have guessed; as the pics show she was like the proverbial pig in poo J
Things took a more serious turn once we reached the Ridge.
A wee blizzard made putting crampons on a real test but we were very glad of them for the next 2 hours. A thin cover of old snow & iced rocks led easily to the summit of Dearg and a cracking view of the In Pinn.
The wind was ripping into us by now and the descent of the West Ridge was very testing.
This theme is likely to remain over the coming week and choosing a good descent route in advance is going to be crucial. We made it down to the path just as darkness engulfed us but the crescent moon gave just enough light to allow us to save the batteries for a more serious occasion.
There’s very little but cold, wind, snow etc forecast for the coming week so looking forward to plenty more adventures. There’s a few spaces available still this weekend then plenty more room for the week after. Pack your goggles & Dachstein mitts!
Winter feels well untruly underway today with snow on the roads at sea-level and more blizzrds forecast.
Next week looks far more settled and cold right through to the start of the winter festival. Fingers crossed for more of the same.
Attendance is looking good too with numbers already booked ranging from half a dozen some nights to over 16 through the central weekend. There are 24 beds available in total each night. Plenty more climbers are weather-watching and planning to come if things are half-decent. If you fit this bracket please give me a heads up unless you have your own van to sleep in. The pub kitchens are having some work done so food won’t be available. If you are local or making own sleeping arrangements you can join us at the bunkhouse for the communal evening meal but we will need notice. Everyone needs to bring their own brekky & lunch.
Loch Harport Oysters on sale in the village but are they good climbing food?
The meet will spill over into the pub next door (obviously just for space reasons not alcohol:-) and there will be illustrated talks or climbing videos early evening most days. Resident staff Farquhar & Seamus are preetty handy on the tunes but any musicians are welcome to join in with the entertainment.
There were some excellent days of weather over the festive period including Christmas day.
My own highlight was on Sunday 28th when Icky & I indulged in a walk up Bla Bheinn.
We spent over an hour of taking in the views on top and finished with a fantastic bumslide descent of the Great Gully that splits the north and south tops. Deep powder gave us a safe ride down half of the vertical height in just a couple of minutes. See the video here-BUMSLIDE; doesn’t get much more fun than this!
Inspired by the video footage 9 year old Innes climbed his first winter mountain the next day. An even faster descent more than compensated us for all the hard work and no views and he’s desperate for the next opportunity to come along. Snowballs compulsary!
Today’s forecast was for showers clearing through by about 10am so Iain and I were feeling pretty smug on the walk into Coir’ a’ Ghrunnda in beautiful weather.
Not far up into the corrie we were equally delighted to find thick ice glazing the rocks, just what we’d hoped for after a week of westerly storms.
We needed crampons for the steep wee section just before the loch and by this time the snow was beginning to fall heavily.
There aren’t any worthwhile pictures from the following couple of hours; all our efforts were put into fighting against the storm. Uphill, kitting up, and even some climbing but there was no end to the pummeling we were getting from all directions. Retreat was the only option and we finally got some respite a few minutes later in the large cave under Sgurr Sgumain.
After lunch we went back out into the maelstrom which continued until we had slithered half way back down the corrie. Finally the clouds broke up and lit up our ice kingdom and gave us magical views out to the very moody Inner Hebrides of Rum & Eigg.
No joy with the climbing but a fantastic day out all the same.
Skye Winter Climbing Festival 2015
Waterfront Bunkhouse, Old Inn Carbost. January 24th to February 7th 2015
An open invitation to winter climbers and walkers with an interest in the Skye mountains.
Following on from the success of the past 4 years the Skye Winter Climbing Festival has expanded to a whole fortnight! Yep, 2 weeks for climbers to meet up, climb together and enjoy the post-match analysis. The Cuillin truly take on their Alpine status in winter and offer climbing and scenery like nowhere else in Britain. We’re not expecting anyone to come for the whole period but there is a whole lifetime of adventures to be had.
How does it work?
Nothing complex- Come for as many days as you want. There are beds for 24 people available throughout the fortnight; first come first served. Use the meet as a base for climbing with a regular partner or come and match up. Collectively we make sure that nobody is left partnerless, short of inspiration or too far out of their depth. You can self-cater but, in the past, we’ve pooled together for evening meals with one of our non-climbing friends knocking up a filling hearty meal ready for whenever we get off the hill.
£14 per night for a bed and £10 per night for evening meal (optional).
Background and information Skye Winter Festival
For the past 4 years staff and close friends of Skye Guides have held an informal winter meet. The meet has seen high levels of activity including over 20 new winter climbs. It’s not all high-brow climbing however with many parties enjoying the magnificence of the snow-clad Cuillin from the corries, easy peaks and the coast-line. As in summer it is the peaks and ridges that are the greatest attraction with adventures possible in almost any conditions.
Guests have come from far and wide as well as a strong local representation each year. The apres-climb plays a big part for many but only to a level that doesn’t stop the climbing! The festival has allowed us to meet some amazing people and hear about some incredible adventures they’ve had.
What’s to do?
Waterfront Bunkhouse at the Old Inn Evenings are informal; the accommodation has a spacious lounge with TV or there’s the pub next door. We’ve had illustrated talks on a variety of climbing trips, watched videos and guests are welcome to bring anything from musical instruments to their own climbing snaps.
If you’re interested e-mail email@example.com or call telephone Mike on 01471 822 116. Bed reservations will need to be paid for but we can also let you know how busy the different nights are looking. Wwe’ll get you to complete a booking form with your climbing grade, Cuillin experience, and details to help with lift sharing.
Got your own campervan- You’re still welcome to join us socially. Willy Sutherland’s campervan spot with hook-ups is at the Glen Brittle junction just half a mile away.
Last minute climber- We’re quite used to this scenario and happy for you decide to join us last minute. Keep in touch about space though.
Unsure?- Many of the Winter Meet regulars know the Cuillin very well, especially those who work here as guides. We’ll be offering is route advice and information on the ground but it’s a non-working meet for us and we’re here to play like everyone else. A list of attendees is circulated before the meet with details of their experience & depth of Cuillin knowledge. Through the meet walking and climbing teams slot into place after making acquaintances.
Travel- Let us know where you’re coming from and whether you want to share lifts.
Confused by this blog post?- The commercial aspect of the festival announced in November has been removed to open the meet to a broader audience. If you are one of the regulars who has now found that a far longer meet is planned go book more time off work
Social- The Old Inn is the climbers’ pub in Skye but also a busy local. It’s a lively spot with organised bands and impromptu jamming. In the past we’ve had slideshows and talks, guitars & games. Let us know if you’ve got pictures or musical talents. The bunkhouse itself has an open plan lounge and kitchen area with television.
The Old Inn probably the best pub in Carbost
Our great quantities of snow have been frustratingly soft for axe placements all winter but the hard freeze after this weeks thaw has finally given us the hard neve needed to climb some steeper routes. Hopefully a week of fun ahead!
Great day out today but very demanding and serious conditions which is the price to pay for harder snow. We started up Broad Gully then onto Sgurr a Bhasteir. Normally a simple grade I winter route the gully held some steeper sections but mainly a lack of any opportunity to rest the burning calves. Fresh snow drifted on top was thought provoking but our front points were able to bite through.
The NE Ridge of Sgurr a Bhasteir is also a simple grade I route in both summer and winter ordinarily but sections of hard snow out above the yawning void of the north face heightened concentration & tension about as high as the lactic acid in the legs.
The reward for all this graft was an immaculate horizontal crest of snow leading into Bealach na Lice and stunning views all around.
The obligatory bumslide was a mix of slow powder and ice sections that positively gave you a warm butt as the speed built up; not recommended anywhere apart from the gentlest of slopes at the minute!
In fact the icy conditions warrant a severe health warning not only in action but also when planning your route; I would certainly hesitate before planning to descend something like the Great Stone Shoot even with all the kit just now because of the combo of hard snow with deep pockets of powder.
Enjoy the pics-
Rachel suggested a look at the Pinn would float her boat last week and I nearly baulked. Luckily a weekend of warm rain hasn’t stripped the Main Cuillin Ridge but has left the Pinn nearly snow free. Crampons & axe were uneccesary precautions but couldn’t begin to spoil the pleasure of a delightful warm reunion with me old mucker Mr Pinn.
The Pinn was just a cherry on the cake of a superb alpine outing though. We hit hard snow at under 600m mark and enjoyed perfect consistency right to the summit of Sgurr Dearg.
The sun started to do its damage soon after midday but even this was pretty limited with a keen breeze keeping things cool up there.
Time for a Traverse before things break down Thursday evening and I’d suggest seriously contemplating some head-torch time to make good time on the harder snow. You’ll touch rocks at the toe of An Stac for the first time proper and increasingly after that but noty enough to loose crampons from what I saw.
SHould be some clues in the gallery photos-